Every true statement states a certainty. You just can't be sure which ones are certain and which ones aren't. Feeling certain = believing, and it isn't the same thing as certainty and doesn't bestow any actuality on what one believes.
For that reason, I am in fact an agnostic atheist. If one wants absolute certainty, major in mathematics. In base 10, 2 + 2 will always = 4.
We arent talking 2 + 2 here..
We are talking is probability which means extremely small numbers that come no where close to even equaling 1.
Fair enough. But the probability also isn't zero. Meaning you don't have absolutely certainty.
Then you end up in a logic loop of his original statement too... since absolute certainty is impossible.. his statement of absolute certainty being impossible is itself impossible. Because there is a probability of absolute certainty being possible as well.
First of all, you may be making the same mistake that Scott seems to making above, assuming that the OP was saying that absolute certainty of anything (as opposed to absolute certainty of god) is impossible. But regardless, we can easily just step back to an inference to the best explanation. The best explanation is that absolute certainty is impossible. We are a young species. Even as a young species we are very new to technological advancement. Even as new as we are to technological advancement we're even newer still to the scientific method. It is self evidently true that even while our conclusions on reality are getting more and more firm every year as we continue to progress, most of what we thought was true 100 years ago has been overturned or our understanding updated by newer discoveries. Research into the psychology of decision making and the cognitive science of belief formation and defense says that we all too often find patterns where none exist and then form beliefs on shaky justifications only to defend those beliefs from our presuppositions, ignoring or minimizing disconfirming evidence and rationalizing away cognitive dissonance. Our inference to the best explanation should be, then, that absolute certainty is impossible.
Your right i read it as its own conclusion.
Although there is no comma there it reads as a finite statement about the state of possibility.
He may have meant it that way. I'm still hopeful that he pops in and clarifies. But even still, the inference to the best explanation supports the general conclusion as well as it does the specific conclusion regarding gods.
How is the qualifier "agnostic" useful at all, in describing atheism or anything else, if absolute certainty is impossible? It seems to gets in the way of intelligent conversation, unless the concept of agnosticism is at issue.
I'm not sure I understand you John. How is it useful to specify to what extent you claim to have knowledge while also specifying to what extent you believe? It seems pretty clear to me that in doing so you're conveying the extra information that wouldn't otherwise be clear to a person were you to just say "I'm an atheist". Am I misunderstanding you?
Nelson, it depends on why someone thinks the simple statement "I'm an atheist" needs some sort of qualifier. The original question started: "If absolute certainty is impossible ..." It suggests we take that as a given. I'm fine with that premise. I don't think it's even an interesting issue compared to numerous others that can be debated. So, I don't see why a simple statement like "I'm an atheist" needs the agnostic qualifier, any more than other statements like "I'm a evolutionist."
Well, if it's your opinion that other issues aren't interesting then, OK. I can certainly respect that. But the fact remains, atheism is a position on belief while agnosticism is a not mutually exclusive position on knowledge. That means that the comparison to evolution is a poor one. There's no comparison to evolution since on the question of evolution there isn't the dual issues of belief in and knowledge of. You can say "I'm an evolutionist" and people understand that you mean that you accept the evidence for evolution. But when someone says "What is your position on gods?", to answer "I'm an atheist" leaves off part of your answer as all you've responded to is whether you believe in god (atheism/theism), not whether you believe that you can ever have knowledge of a god's existence (agnosticism/gnosticism).